Executive government: Executive decision making

Parliamentary lesson plan – Executive government: Executive decision making [PDF 233kb, 2 pages]

The centre of power in the federal government is the Executive. In this lesson, students identify situations where executive decision making is necessary and form ministries and a Cabinet to plan and present a proposal for a year-level formal.


Students will:

  • explore executive decision making in the federal Cabinet
  • understand the need for executive decisions
  • explore how executive decisions are implemented through government departments.

Focus questions

  • What is an executive? (a person or group with the authority to act)
  • What is an executive decision? (a decision taken to act upon an issue without conference or reference to other participants whom they might represent)
  • Why do governments need to make executive decisions?
  • What powers should the Executive have?

Concept words

  • Administer
  • Authority
  • Cabinet
  • Executive decision
  • Executive powers
  • Executive Council
  • Separation of powers
  • Ministers
  • Departments
  • Constitution
  • Responsibility
  • Responsible government
  • Portfolio

Getting started

  1. Ask students to imagine playing a game of chess in which half of the class is playing the other half.
  2. How would each side decide how to move? What factors might affect the quality of the decisions? (degree of experience, leadership, argument, indecision etc.)
  3. What if a time limit were set at three minutes per move? Would fewer people make more effective decisions?
  4. What if a time limit of one minute per move were set? Who, from each side, might make the most effective decisions? Why?
  5. Ask students to consider a situation that needs critical attention (e.g. a natural disaster, threat of war, outbreak of disease etc.)
  6. Lead a discussion about how best to manage the crisis including making an effective course of action. Ask: What decisions need to be made and who should make them?
  7. What are these decisions called? (executive decisions)
  8. What is the government body that makes executive decisions? (the Cabinet)

Main activity

  1. Ask students to imagine that the class is a government responsible for planning and implementing a year-level formal. The budget for the event is $2,000 and Cabinet ministers must present proposals for expenditure to the teacher (acting as the wider school community).
  2. Brainstorm the portfolios (areas of responsibility) required to implement the formal (project leader, venue officer, treasurer, designer, music coordinator, food officer etc.)
  3. Now select ministers to fill each role and create appropriate titles. (e.g. Prime Minister, Minister for Design, Minister for Hospitality, Minister for Sound, Admin Minister, Security Minister etc.)
  4. Divide the remaining students among the ministers to form government departments.
  5. Set a time limit for ministers to meet with their departments to write a brief proposal stating what goods and services will be provided by the department for the formal. (e.g. Department of Hospitality: what refreshments, cost, caterer etc.)
  6. Ask the ministers to meet as the Cabinet. Present the following hypothetical situations for the relevant minister to respond to:
    1. The manager of the selected venue calls one week prior to the formal and says the venue has burnt down.
    2. The food does not arrive on the night and the caterer is not contactable.
    3. The Minister for Sound is taken sick early in the process and unable to implement the music proposal.
    4. The Treasurer loses the class funds ($50/student) one week after Cabinet is formed.
    5. Issued tickets include incorrect information.
    6. Students from another school gatecrash the social and vandalise the school ground.


  1. How well did the ministers respond to the hypothetical situations?
  2. How well did the ministers represent the interests of their departments?
  3. What type of decision making did the Cabinet use across the whole activity? Was this process similar to the chess example?
  4. Should (or did) ministers consult their departments during the hypothetical? On which issues? Did they need the support of their departments at any time?

Parliamentary context

  • What critical situations require executive decisions? (disasters, call for elections, decisions to go to war etc.)
  • What on-going executive decisions might the Cabinet commonly make? (decisions related to legislation proposals, the national agenda, government policy, crisis management etc.)
  • What decisions should not be left to the Executive? (changing the Constitution, choosing federal representatives etc.)

Extension activities

  • Essay 1: 'Executive power is necessary for effective governance.' Discuss in 300 words or more.
  • Essay 2: Cabinet meetings are secret. Explain in 200 words why this is so.
  • Essay 3: The Executive sits in the Legislature (the Parliament). What, if any, are the problems of having ministers contributing to law-making in the Parliament and then implementing laws through their departments? Is this a strength or weakness of the Westminster system?

Useful tools


Executive (the): branch of government which administers the law; the group of people from the governing party who make policy and control government departments, and who are answerable to the Parliament for the way they run the government; a group or person who manages.

Executive decision: having the authority to put important laws and decisions into effect without recourse to governing bodies or other entities.

Cabinet (the): key group of decision making ministers in executive government.

Documents and resources